Ceci a tue Cela
Towards the end of his career, Honoré Daumier often depicted allegorical figures to convey political messages. This, in part, was a result of the censorship policies that affected the publication of prints in France at the time, and the historical events that marred the country during l’année terrible (1870-1871). Not surprisingly, Daumier illustrated the triumph of death in several of his lithographs during this period, as in Ceci a tue Cela. Cadavers lay motionless in a non-descriptive landscape, while a figure with disheveled hair, symbolic of a France in a state of frenzy, points to an electoral urn with one hand and to a dead body with the other. The “ceci” from the title refers to the ballots of the plebiscite that took place in 1869, which enabled Napoléon III to lead the nation to war in 1870, while the “cela” indicates the countless dead bodies. Although Daumier made use of few details to relate political issues at this stage of his career, his scenes are quite poignant. The disturbing sight that has left the allegorical personification grasping for air instantaneously overcomes viewers. By concentrating his efforts on the devastations of war and those brought on by Bonapartism, Daumier was commenting on the ineptitude of the French Empire to govern the country.